Housing & Real Estate
From the bustling city of Warner Robins to the quiet community of Centerville, Houston County’s communities are diverse. In 2017, more than 153,000 people called the county home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Population density in the county was 372.5 per square mile, the census found.
Robins Air Force Base has more than 21,000 personnel, and a number of those personnel live off base in surrounding communities. Additionally, nearly 18,000 veterans live in the area, according to the census.
The county’s communities give newcomers plenty of choices when selecting a home. Enlist the help of a reputable real estate agent to help you sort through the area’s home options. The Georgia Association of Realtors is a central source of local real estate information and services. Those interested in purchasing a new home can find the expertise and professional services they need at www.garealtor.com.
Houston County, home of Robins AFB, covers approximately 375 square miles in the heart of Georgia. It is circled by eight counties: Bibb County to the north; Crawford County to the northwest; Peach and Macon counties to the west; Dooly and Pulaski counties to the south; and Bleckley and Twiggs counties to the east. The county boasts a variety of recreational opportunities, with active parks and recreation departments, museums, theaters and more. For more information, check out the Robins Regional Chamber at www.robinsregion.com or the Perry Chamber of Commerce at www.perrygachamber.com.
Communities in Houston County near Robins AFB include Centerville, Perry and Warner Robins.
Located halfway between Byron and Wellston and halfway between Macon and Perry — hence its name — Centerville was incorporated in 1958. One of the youngest cities in Georgia, Centerville has a population of about 7,700.
A family-friendly town, Centerville is part of a fast-growing area of Georgia. The Houston County Galleria, on Watson Boulevard, offers shoppers more than 40 specialty shops to choose from, along with a 15-screen cinema. Residents also enjoy many nearby annual festivals and events, like the International Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon and the Georgia National Fair in Perry.
Those looking to make their home in Centerville can choose from a wide selection of real estate. Median rent is $962 and selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $1,439. Mean travel time to work for those living in Centerville is about 21 minutes.
Situated at the intersection of four highways, Perry is known as the “Crossroads of Georgia.” The prime location makes Perry an inviting place for travelers, and tourism is one of the city’s top industries. Named after Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry (the “Hero of Lake Erie” in the War of 1812), the city was incorporated in 1824 and is the county seat of Houston County. The city’s population is approximately 16,700.
Perry is famous for the Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter. The facility sits on more than 1,100 acres and hosts the state fair along with hundreds of other events. Perry’s historic downtown area is filled with specialty shops, a community theater and historic landmarks. Fairs and festivals, such as the annual Dogwood Festival, showcase the city’s Southern pride and beauty.
Real estate in Perry is diverse. Median rent is $789 and selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $1,212. Mean travel time to work for those living in Perry is around 20 minutes.
Warner Robins is diverse, prompting its slogan “Georgia’s International City,” and has a growing population of nearly 75,000. A U.S. Air Force military depot was established in the small farming community — then known as Wellston — in 1941. Soon after, both the depot and town were renamed after one of the Air Corps’ first logisticians, Brig. Gen. Augustine Warner Robins. Robins AFB, one of the largest Air Force bases in the South, is a source of both pride and industry for the city.
The city also boasts a parks and recreation department, a civic center, one of the largest aviation museums in the United States (Museum of Aviation), shopping, festivals and a community theater.
Many different styles of housing can be found in Warner Robins. Median rent is $862 and selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $1,117. Mean travel time to work for those living in Warner Robins is a little over 20 minutes.
Planning Your Move
Relocating to a new home can be one of the most stressful situations in life. Whether moving across town or the nation, preparation and organization make all the difference.
For military moves, visit www.move.mil for information about moving resources and to learn about the allowances and responsibilities of a military-sponsored move.
Decide whether or not to make your move a do-it-yourself operation.
For a DIY move, consider distance, labor help and the costs of renting the moving van, gas, lodging during the move and insurance. A transportable storage unit can bridge a professional and DIY move. When the unit is delivered to your residence, you load and secure it for transport and then unload it at your new residence.
Whatever the method, be sure to obtain as many quotes as possible from professional movers, as well as cost estimates for a DIY move. Next, compare the costs for each type of move, factoring in the stress and physical exertion involved. Ask any company you are interested in for references and use them to inquire about reliability and customer service.
Regardless of which method you choose, the first step should be to inventory your personal belongings. The list, with photographs of any valuables, will be important for both insurance purposes and to help keep you organized during transit.
Plan for one full day to pack each room — though the kitchen and garage may take longer. Make a rough estimate of your packing schedule and then add 50 percent more time. It always takes longer than predicted to pack. Toss or donate unused items to lighten your load. Visit www.goodwill.org, www.salvationarmyusa.org or www.clothingdonations.org for locations near you or to arrange a pickup.
Pack for success:
Consider what you are packing and control box weight. Books should go in small boxes while bedding can easily fill a larger box.
- Wrap fragile items with cardboard dividers, tissue paper or air bubble wrapping.
- Use bright colors when wrapping small items so they don’t get thrown out accidentally.
- Use crumpled paper or newspaper to line the top and bottom of boxes.
- Tape a copy of your inventory list to boxes to identify what’s inside and where it should go.
Buying Versus Renting
The decision to buy or rent is the most important step in your relocation process. Purchasing a home entails a long-term financial and emotional commitment with various pluses and minuses. Advantages include the possibility of building equity and the freedom to design and decorate your property or landscape. And don’t forget the tax benefits. Disadvantages include upkeep, property taxes and fluctuating property values.
Renting, on the other hand, makes moving easier and someone else maintains the property. Amenities such as laundry rooms, exercise rooms, swimming pools and tennis courts vary from one rental complex to another. The main disadvantage is a loss of control over the residence. Some complexes, for example, restrict or prohibit pets and personal touches such as painting. And the landlord or property managers can also raise the rent with proper notice.
To determine your best choice, account for all of your needs, review your financial situation and research your options thoroughly.
Finding an Apartment
Be prepared when you meet with the leasing agent, property manager or owner. Bring a list of what you are looking for in a rental; it is important to be clear about your needs and to get all of your questions answered. You will also need to provide information and verification about your job, your income and your past rental history. Dress to make a good impression and treat the meeting like a job interview — be polite and arrive on time.
Before you sign a lease, inspect the apartment with the landlord. Look for the following problems:
- Cracks, holes or damage in the floor, walls or ceiling.
- Signs of leaking water, leaky fixtures or water damage.
- Any signs of mold or pests.
- Lack of hot water.
- Inadequate heating or air conditioning.
Use a written checklist with the landlord to document the condition of the rental before you move in, and keep a copy of the completed checklist to use when you move out.
The Georgia Department of Community Affairs’ landlord-tenant handbook can be downloaded at www.dca.ga.gov. Search for “landlord-tenant handbook.”
Buying a Home
Buying a home is a complex process and, as the recent housing crisis demonstrated, requires a thorough education on the part of the buyer. First, fully understand your financial position — credit score, available savings, monthly income and expenditures. Subtracting your expenditures from your income, for instance, will yield the amount you can afford for housing.
Be sure to account for all insurance costs associated with owning a home, possible homeowner association fees and property taxes in your monthly expenditures. Overall, loan rules changed in 2015, but according to www.ginniemae.gov (Government National Mortgage Association) and www.homebuyinginstitute.com (the Home Buying Institute) loan programs continue to vary on the percentage of your income that can be used for housing-related expenses. Lenders balance debt against income to decide if an applicant will be able to repay a loan. Most conventional loans require borrowers to have no more than 43 percent total monthly debt versus their total monthly income, though there are exceptions, such as for those with significant savings. The Federal Housing Administration has a two-tier qualifying system: FHA sets its top thresholds at 31 percent front-end debt (housing expenses as a percentage of income) and 43 percent back-end debt (all debt as a percentage of income) for a 31/43 qualifying ratio. Like commercial lenders, Veterans Affairs combines front-end and back-end debt for a 41 percent limit against income.
Next, research the different types of home loans to determine the right fit for your financial situation and discuss your options with a lending professional. Lenders are diverse today, and not all homebuyers obtain their mortgage loans through their banks and credit unions. For example, you may choose to work with an internet lender, a mortgage broker, a homebuilder or a real estate agency lender. To determine which lender is best for you, get recommendations from friends and family members and check credentials as well as Better Business Bureau ratings.
A preapproved loan before starting your search for a home can determine your spending limits and signal any potential issues in the way of receiving a loan. For any home loan application, the mortgage company will order a credit report, so it would be good to get a free report in advance to determine your credit status and make sure the report contains no erroneous information.
To order your free annual report from one or all of the national consumer reporting companies: Visit www.annualcreditreport.com and complete and submit the request form online.
Home Loan Application
To complete a home loan application you’ll need: photo IDs (such as a driver’s license); Social Security numbers; residence addresses for the past two years with landlord contact information if you rented; names and addresses of your employers for the past two years; your current gross monthly income; recent financial institution statements with names, addresses, account numbers and balances on all checking, savings, CDs, money market, bonds and mutual funds accounts; recent financial institution statements with names, addresses, account numbers, balances and monthly payments on all open loans (including student loans) and credit cards; addresses and loan information of all other real estate owned; estimated value of furniture and personal property; W2s for the past two years and current paycheck stubs; copies of all divorce decrees, child support documents or any other court proceedings that affect your financial status; verification of any child support payments; and evidence of any retirement or pension benefits. VA or military forms include: DD 214 (veteran), Form 22 (National Guard), DD 1747, Off-base Housing Authority (active duty) and Certificate of Eligibility (active duty).
For more information, visit www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/credit-and-loans.
Knowing your monthly budget and the amount of your loan is invaluable during the next phase, especially finding the answers to questions before the hunt for a home begins.
First, determine your home preferences. Does a single-family house, condo, town house or duplex best fit your needs and budget? Do you prefer a new home, an existing home or to build one? Though new homes generally cost more, existing homes may come with maintenance issues and renovation costs. How many bedrooms and bathrooms would you like? Do you want an attached garage? Will you live in the city, a suburb or the country? How close to work, school, shopping or public transportation do you want to be? Answers to these questions will greatly assist your search and the next stage — hiring a real estate agent.
The ideal agent will help find your ideal home and guide you through the purchase process. First, interview potential candidates to ensure they understand your needs, know your homebuying and neighborhood preferences, and are readily accessible.
Good luck and happy hunting!
Georgia provides housing programs and incentives to help residents with home ownership. For more information, visit www.hud.gov and select “Georgia” from the “State Info” drop-down menu.
Houston County Programs
The Warner Robins Houston County Housing Authorities provide safe, quality and affordable rental housing for area residents. For more information on available public housing communities, visit www.warnerrobinsha.com.